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Disabled vet gets Congressional Gold

Tyrone Jackson (L) and the Rev. James Moore (R) stand proudly next to Samuel Belton waiting to escort him inside. Jackson, a retired Marine master gunnery sergeant, is President of the Chapter Nine Montford Point Association, and the Rev. Moore is a retired Marine sergeant major. Photo by Mandy Hathcock

A Walterboro man and retired U.S. Marine is being honored for helping to shape American history and for his fight against segregation.
Samuel L. Belton, 92, of Walterboro, is a retired U.S. Marine. Moreover, he is a member of the elite Montford Point Marine Association, a group of black marines who were not allowed to train at Parris Island with white marines in the early 1940s. Despite the U.S. Military making segregation in the military illegal in 1941, it wasn’t until 1949 that the Marine Corps honored this law. For two years, all black enlisted marines were required to train at a separate, segregated camp in North Carolina. Belton was one of these marines, which became known as the Montford Point Association.

Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Belton are seated together during the recognition ceremony (above) before Belton receives his Congressional Gold Medal of Honor (right)

Recently, U.S. President Barrack Obama honored this group of men for their struggles against racism. Each of the marines received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.
Because of health problems, however, Belton was not able to fly to Washington, D.C. to receive his medal or to be recognized. That’s when several members of the Montford Point Association decided to bring the medal to him.
On Friday, the Montford Point Association Chapter Nine from Beaufort, S.C., came to Walterboro. They surrounded Belton in honoring him for their service, and for his fight against segregation.

Also present for the ceremony were members of the Disabled American Veterans Organization, the American Legion, the local Colleton County Veterans Administration and several area veterans who wanted to honor Belton for his service.
“We are a group of marines dedicated to the preservation of the black marines who made history when they went through segregated boot camp,” said Michael Cook, a retired Gunnery Sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps. Cook is a member of the Montford Point Association Chapter Nine.
“He couldn’t fly to Washington, D.C., to get his medal, but we made sure he received it in Walterboro,” he said, of Belton. “We had a nice crowd to see him finally receive his gold medal,” he said.
Cook and Belton recently became friends when the two met through a magazine, said Cook.
“I met Mr. Belton in a funny way,” said Cook, with a laugh. “In the back of the Disabled Americans Veterans quarterly magazine I was reading, there was an ad that he placed asking for contact with other Montford Point marines. I responded and we’ve been friends since.”
In addition to his Congressional Gold Medal, Belton was also wounded in a WWII battle, said Cook. However, he never received his Purple Heart. The Montford Point Association is currently working to make sure Belton receives his Purple Heart.
“Mr. Belton is an amazing fellow. He went on to make massive historical strides … he was the first black supervisor at the University of Virginia at a time when that was unheard of,” said Cook. “I have adopted him as a father.
“He is a very interesting fellow to talk to who we are proud to know.”

Heather Walters (881 Posts)